Recently, Michael Bird mentioned Melchizedek’s mother in a Tweet. I was curious to know her name since Melchizedek is such an enigmatic person in the Old Testament.
Here is what Michel Bird said:
Who was Melchizedek’s mother? Melchizedek appears twice in the Old Testament, Genesis 14:18-20 and Psalm 110:4. He also appears eight times in the New Testament: Hebrews 5:6, 10; 6:20; 7:1, 10-11, 15, 17. Before we can know the name of Melchizedek’s mother, we must know a few things about Melchizedek himself.
According to the book of Genesis, Melchizedek was the king of Salem (Jerusalem) and the priest of El Elyon, the God Most High:
“King Melchizedek of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was priest of God Most High. He blessed him and said, ‘Blessed be Abram by God Most High, maker of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!’ And Abram gave him one tenth of everything”(Genesis 14:18-20).
The book of Psalms says that when David became king of Jerusalem, he followed the tradition set by Melchizedek and he became a priest of the Canaanite population that lived in Jerusalem. Since David was not a Levite, David continued the tradition set by Melchizedek since he was a king and a priest.
The psalmist said about David, “The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind, ‘you are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek’” (Psalm 110:4). Since David was a priest, his sons also became priests, “David’s sons were priests” (2 Samuel 8:18).
The references to Melchizedek in the New Testament are all related to Jesus Christ:
In Hebrews 5:6, the author says that Jesus is a priest according to the order of Melchizedek: “You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek” (Hebrews 5:6).
Since Jesus was from the tribe of Judah, he could not be a priest because he was not a Levite. Since he was a son of David (Matthew 1:1), he followed David’s and his sons’ tradition and became a priest after the order of Melchizedek. This is what the author of Hebrews says in Hebrews 6:20, “Jesus . . . has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek” (Hebrews 6:20 NIV).
The writer of Hebrews says something very interesting about Melchizedek’s family. According to the writer of Hebrews, Melchizedek was a man “without father, without mother, without genealogy” (Hebrews 7:3).
The meaning of this expression is highly debated. Some people believe that Melchizedek did not have a father or a mother because he was an angel or some kind of supernatural being. Some say that the Melchizedek of Genesis 14 was a Christophany, a revelation of Christ. This view has no merits since Christ is not Melchizedek but a priest according to the order of Melchizedek.
The real interpretation of this enigmatic expression is found in the words “without genealogy.” In his commentary on this text, Elliott wrote, “ The last words, ‘without genealogy,’ throw light on the meaning of those which precede. Not because we find no mention of the parents of Melchizedek is he thus spoken of as fatherless and motherless, but because he is suddenly introduced as priest, without any token whatever that he held the office by right of genealogy, the only claim familiar to Hebrew readers.”
Melchizedek had a mother because he was a human being. As for the name of Melchizedek’s mother, I have no idea. Maybe Michael knows something that nobody else knows. I am going to ask him the name of Melchizedek’s mother. When he tells me her name, I will tell you.
Until then, Melchizedek will remain a man whose mother’s name is unknown.
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Emeritus Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary
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